GLEN RIDGE, NJ — This school year at Glen Ridge High School looked a little different from previous years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it didn’t stop the staff of the literary magazine from doing their jobs. The 2021 issue of “In Between” was released last week, after months of the editors combing through writing and artwork submissions and learning how to adapt to a digital format. Led by four student editors and adviser Stephanie Pollak, the magazine was an entirely digital production for a second year this year.
“We knew it would be digital,” junior co-editor Natalia Leaf said in a phone interview with The Glen Ridge Paper on June 13. “Last year we learned what worked and what didn’t, and we knew it would bring more chances for people to write.”
When the pandemic closed schools and moved classes online in March 2020, the normal print and handout schedule of the magazine had to be canceled. So, like so much else, it was taken to the internet. Despite not having a magazine to hold in their hands, the editors found that publishing “In Between” exclusively online has its advantages.
“Normally, we can’t have it in color,” co-editor Arcadia Hinton-Cooley, also a junior at GRHS, said in a June 13 phone interview. “But this year we could, and we could have more art and more pages.”
Pollak, an English and psychology teacher at GRHS, said the digital format made it harder to encourage students to submit their work but was easier to put together remotely. For much of the school year, Glen Ridge students were spending limited time in class in person, while also taking classes online.
“We usually put out a physical magazine, but given the remote aspect of most of this year, the online format seemed to work better,” she said in a June 11 email. “With the online format, we were able to include more full-color photos and artwork, which is a great way to include our talented photographers and artists in the magazine.”
This year’s issue of “In Between,” which is posted on the district website, is a 47-page collection of poetry, short stories and essays written by GRHS students, along with photography and other artwork also by students. There isn’t usually a topic requirement for magazine submissions, but the pandemic emerged as a theme as the year went on.
“It turned into a memoir of what people were going through this year,” Leaf said. “But we also balanced it with non-pandemic pieces.”
For a few months at the beginning of each school year, the staff and Pollak encourage students to submit their writing or artwork to be considered for the magazine. Many GRHS English teachers help with the legwork, some offering extra credit to students who submit. In December, the staff starts reading through the work sent in and giving it individual scores. The scores are averaged out, and the top pieces make it into the magazine. Hinton-Cooley estimated that about 100 pieces were submitted this year; half of them made it in.
The editors found that looking for students to publish work in “In Between” wasn’t the biggest challenge this year — instead, it was getting them to read it.
“It was hard to find ways to get people to read it, because a lot of students won’t go online and find it themselves,” Hinton-Cooley said. “A lot of parents have read it, and others in town. We probably will keep that digital part because it gets outside of the school. But I think we’ll go back to printing next year.”
Plus, it’s exciting for students to see their work published in physical form.
“There’s something nice about having something tangible and having a place for all of the work and all of the art in one place,” Leaf said.
Given the tough year, Pollak said a lot of students welcomed the magazine as an outlet.
“Our students tend to have extremely busy schedules, and I am impressed when they find the time to slow down and reflect in a creative manner,” she said. “This year, given the pandemic, many students seemed to need the creative outlet, and I love having an opportunity to showcase their talents.”
The 2021 issue of “In Between” can be found on the front page of the district website at www.glenridge.org. According to Leaf, in addition to the yearbook, the magazine is a way to record the school year.
“It’s this commemoration of the year,” she said. “We get pieces all year long, and we can get closure on the year.”